Gesso, sand, and oil on canvas
43 × 40 inches
Signed lower right;
signed, titled and dated on the verso
Born in Milan, Enrico Donati first studied musical composition and art in Paris. When World War II broke out, he fled Europe and settled in New York, where he helped to establish a thriving new art scene. The first works Donati painted in New York were Surrealist in style, concerning his interests in life, death, myths, and nature. In 1942, he exhibited his paintings at the New School for Social Research, which earned him an introduction to the founder of European Surrealism, André Breton. This chance meeting would have a great impact on his reputation in New York, as he was welcomed into Breton’s close circle of artists.
Donati later experimented with a number of styles and techniques, including a richly textured effect, applying dust, sand, coffee grinds, and dirt from a vacuum to his paint and glue, which he mixed and thickly layered onto the canvas. The present work, Quetzacoatl, was painted in 1964 during this mature period in Donati’s career. The title refers to a deity in Mesoamerican culture, which means “feathered serpent.” Layered and textured with sand, Donati has painted an abstracted interpretation of the plume of feathers from this symbol in muted earth tones with a vibrant background of red shades.